AYAS Nautical Research Club of Armenian Completes Replica of 13th Century Medieval Merchant Sailing Ship “Cilicia” to Retrace Ancient Armenian Maritime Trading Route Starting Summer, 2004 –

AYAS Nautical Research Club of Armenian Completes Replica of 13th Century Medieval Merchant Sailing Ship “Cilicia” to Retrace Ancient Armenian Maritime Trading Route Starting Summer, 2004 – Part II

By Jackie Abramian as published in the Armenian Press


The AYAS Nautical Research Club, named after the medieval port of Ayas in Cilician Armenia, was founded in 1985 in Yerevan, Armenia. It functions on the basis of membership fees and donations. Club members research ancient sea maps as well as the early instruments of navigation and pursue underwater archaeology in Lake Sevan [1916 meters above sea levels] in northern Armenia. The club hopes its rich library of more than 5,000 books, collected in the last 15 years, will someday be part of a permanent maritime museum in Armenia which will also house and exhibit ancient Armenian maritime history and history of vessels and shipbuilding craft used on Lakes Van, Urmia, Sevan and rivers in ancient Armenia. Since its founding, the Club has organized 12 exhibitions and carried out several surveys on Armenian navigation. As members of the International Society for Nautical Research, International Commission of Maritime History, International Foundation of Disabled Sailing and Armenian Geographic Society, Ayas club members participate in international conferences on maritime history and underwater Archaeology, and maintain contacts with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, Museo Navale in Venice, and scientists worldwide. The Club members consist of professional doctors, electrical engineers, mechanics, engineers, chief administrator of National Chamber Orchestra, designers, a geographer, a musician, physicists, a teacher, an archaeologist, a historian, an economist, a film producer, photographers, a reporter, rescue workers, students and scholars.


 Historical Armenia lies amidst the prehistoric world — a crossroad that connects ancient countries since the prehistoric times. The region lies between the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian seas with three great lakes — Sevan, Van and Urmia — and a number of navigable rivers, two of which are Euphrates and Tigris, well known since ancient times. Rock paintings, found on the mountains surrounding the basin of Lake Sevan, include constellations carved on the rocks and stones in the passes of the mountain ranges around the lake to help travelers and merchants orient themselves. This further proves Armenia’s position as a crossroad for trade routes over long periods of time, and Lake Sevan’s role in the trade development both as coastal route and as an inland water trade route. The first written evidence of vessels in Armenia comes from a Hittite inscription (13th c. BC) documenting different-sized vessels used for transporting passengers and cargo on the Upper Euphrates. The Assyrian cuneiform writing (8th c. BC) talks about a raft floating on the Upper Tigris by Urartians (inhabitants of Van’s Kingdom = Urartu = Ararat). Herodotus talks about shield-type wood framework leather boats (Kur in Armenian, = Curragh, Coracle on British Islands, Kouffa, Gufa in Arabic). These boats were built on the Upper Euphrates in Armenia. Marco Polo bears witness that Levon III, King of Armenia, had presented to him, his father and uncle a galley especially built for them. The Kingdom’s navy was described as having battles between Armenian King Levon II`s fleet and a pirates fleet between the island of Cyprus and Cilicia. Arab historian Ibn Al Vardi talks about the siege of the port of Ayas by Mamelukes and notes how the Armenians had three big military ships: “Ayas”, “Atlas” and “Shama.” The kingdom had a merchant fleet, most importantly for development trade, and in 1184 had coastal laws passed as state law obliging the return of ships and cargo to owners, and assistance in the event of a shipwreck near the kingdom’s coast.

(Jackie Abramian can be reached at jaassociates@comcast.net . Interested to sponsor CILICIA’s expedition? Contact Karen Balayan in Armenia at ayas@freenet.am  or visit the Club’s website at www.ayas.am  to view photos of the CILICIA.)